Sponsors Ambush Spectators

Ambush marketing is something that is causing much concern to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG). It is an issue that has already been causing panic, with numerous reports of alleged ambush marketers coming to light in the last few years, and LOCOG fear that it will become even more intense in the coming months as we get closer to the start of the games. However, if you are wondering what ambush marketing is exactly, let me explain. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) defined it as “all intentional and unintentional attempts to create a false or unauthorised commercial association with the Olympic Movements or the Olympic Games”, which is a fairly selfish definition on their part. Honda has been under investigation by LOCOG following the release of a 2011 ad campaign which featured numerous British Olympic athletes. Furthermore, BMW are the official car sponsor of the Olympics.

However, the IOC’s definition also seems to include small businesses who could be seen as trying to rival McDonald’s, Coca Cola and Visa, who are also official sponsors of the Olympics. The official sponsors have paid almost unimaginable amounts of money to be associated with the mega event, and they are most keen to protect their investment against all ‘rivals’ trying to associate themselves with the Olympics for free. Small businesses could also be potentially fined up to £20,000 without even realising that any crime had been committed, with LOCOG taking a zero tolerance approach on all ambushers. Surely, with big multinational corporations putting small companies out of business all over the world, LOCOG’s wrath should only be directed at the multinationals, but at least McDonald’s will be safe from the threat caused by small businesses.

The spectators at the Olympics this summer are also not safe and could potentially be turned away, or have items taken away from them if they are not products of the official sponsors. At the 2006 football World Cup in Germany before the start of a match, some spectators “were forced to watch the game in their underwear after being forced to remove their orange lederhosen linked to a ambusher brewer”, possibly a sign of things to come. But now that the Olympics has become an advertisement for products that have no connection to sport, and that the world is being rebuilt in a corporate image, and we now no longer have the right to even wear our own clothes, everything is now falling in to place for this years Games to be the most successful yet.

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Social Media Ban For Olympic Volunteers

The 70,000 London 2012 Olympic Games volunteers have been told that they are banned from posting about the games on social media sites. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) have released a document detailing what volunteers can and can not say. In the document volunteers have been asked not to mention details about their role, their location or about the athletes. However, this does seem to contradict British Olympic Association Chief Executive Andy Hunt’s statement that “The International Olympic Committee themselves are really pushing the use of social media and we support that“.

Jean Tomlin (LOCOG HR Director), who blogged in 2011 on the London 2012 website, said that the “Volunteers are the lifeblood of London 2012”. It certainly seems apparent that without the help and the passion of the volunteers, who are giving up their free time to ensure the success of the games, the London Olympics would not be possible. However, with such an infringement on civil liberties LOCOG certainly seem more than willing to dig a yet deeper hole for themselves.

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The Security Olympics

The Olympic Legacy has been an idea under siege since the term was first bandied about. Today though, Stephen Graham, Professor of Cities and Society at Newcastle university has published a damning indictment of the Legacy in the Guardian. His essay outlines how the security operation surrounding the games is not only about security, but instead about the promotion of corporate and political interests, thinly veiled by the non-description of public interest and safety.

Graham’s article does not make for light or quick reading, but here are a few of the ideas to get you going:

With the required numbers of security staff more than doubling in the last year, estimates of the Games’ immediate security costs have doubled from £282m to £553m. Greece’s security costs for their Olympic Games were a major contributor, as part of the overall £10bn costs, to Greece’s subsequent debt crisis. Current estimates for the London Olympic Games stand the costs around £26bn.

More troops – around 13,500 – will be deployed in the London operation than are currently at war in Afghanistan. The growing security force is being estimated at anything between 24,000 and 49,000 in total. Such is the secrecy that no one seems to know for sure. On top of this, an aircraft carrier will be moored on the Thames, and drones will patrol over the ceremonies.

New, punitive and potentially invasive laws such as the London Olympic Games Act 2006 are in force. These legitimise the use of force, potentially by private security companies, to proscribe Occupy-style protests. One such law allows police to arrest or eject anyone that does not comply with the ‘celebratory look and feel’ of the Games – in theory to prevent unofficial advertising. However, corporate interests aside, the odds that this law will be utilised only against advertisers are long.

The security preoccupations of Olympics present unprecedented opportunities to push through highly elitist, authoritarian and speculative urban planning efforts that otherwise would be much more heavily contested – especially in democracies. These often work to “purify” or “cleanse” diverse and messy realities of city life and portray existing places as “waste” or “derelict” spaces to be transformed by mysterious “trickle-down effects”. The scale and nature of evictions and the clearance of streets of those deemed not to befit such events can seem like systematic ethnic or social cleansing. To make way for the Beijing Games, 1.5 million were evicted; clearances of local businesses and residents in London, though more stealthy, have been marked.

Spiraling costs, social cleansing, Government privatisation policy, and suppression of the population – these are all “bigger picture” issues. The everyday realities of the games seem to pale in comparison.  As Professor Graham delivers a strong blow to the pomp and sanctimony of the London Organising Committee, he highlights their priorities articulately but with subtlety. It seems that bankrupting the country is an acceptable price for establishing the Olympic legacy – oppressive security measures and extensive privatisation of any service in reach.

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Olympic Tickets – Seb Coe’s “obsession with secrecy”

 

Chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG), Lord Sebastian Coe, has been accused of having an “obsession with secrecy” over the Olympic ticket allocation process. At the London Assembly Dee Doocey, the chair of the assembly’s Economy, Sport and Culture Committee, claims that a statistical analysis and breakdown of tickets “should be available at the hit of a button”, but is being avoided using data protection.

When asked how many of the tickets already sold fall below the £50 mark, Lord Coe said he would not answer until the remaining four million tickets were sold. He claimed that to do so would be providing “partial information” and added his staff “will not provide a running commentary”. His refusal to answer the question clearly sparked anger amongst the assembly members with Conservative member Andrew Boff saying “what you’re saying is that we are too thick to understand the job you are doing and you will not give us the information. That is an insult”.

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Chief of Olympic 2012 Ethics Panel Resigns

Meredith Alexander, Chief of LOCOG’s ethics panel, has resigned over the continuing sponsorship of the games by Dow Chemicals. Dow Chemicals currently owns Union carbide, who were responsible for the mishandling of poisonous gas tanks, which caused the deaths of thousands of people in 1984. Dow’s  sponsorship of the games has been heavily criticised, and Alexander’s resignation only highlights another of the ethical swamps through which LOCOG is determinedly wading for funding.

 

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The Retention of Information Act

In September 2011, Spectacle submitted a Freedom Of Information request regarding permission for the planned structures in Greenwich park. When Freedom Of Information requests are submitted, the relevant bodies are obliged to respond within 20 days. After the prescribed 20 days, Greenwich Council’s planning body did reply, but only to inform us that there would be a delay in responding to our request.

After one month of delays they gave an incomplete answer, regarding different planned structures saying planning permission applications were submitted in March 2010.

After further enquiries and a further month of delays, the FOI response detailed the planning applications for the structures we actually enquired after, with the date of submission at the beginning of November 2011 – some time after Spectacle’s enquiry, and considerably longer after March 2010.

If you would like to see how other Olympic FOI requests are handled visit WhatDoTheyKnow

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Whose Common is it, really?

The Olympic Delivery Authority/London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (ODA/LOCOG) expected Greenwich Council to grant planning permission for Circus Field to be used for the purposes of the Olympics, even though no details of the proposed use have been included in the public consultation documents.

To this end, LOCOG wanted to be able to enclose parts of the grounds for the equestrian events there. However, for this they needed permission from a Regional Development Authority. This little legal mechanism is to avoid national authorities from riding roughshod over smaller, regional areas.

To get around such sticky planning issues, the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006, was drafted to include, among the purposes of a Regional Development Authority (s.36(1)), the task of preparing for the Olympic Games. However, by virtue of s.36(2), the may only prepare directly “at the request of the Olympic Delivery Authority.” Therefore the responsibility of the Regional Development Authority (specifically now the London Development Agency) is acting at the request of the ODA, in this instance, in acquiring a short lease of Circus Field from the Crown Estates owner of this part of the registered common. Part of the Olympics Act (Section 36 paragraph 3(c)) also stated that “no enactment regulating the use of commons, open spaces or allotments shall prevent or restrict the use of the land for construction, other works or any other purpose (but this paragraph does not disapply a requirement for planning permission)”.

All of this means is that the ODA can directly order the Regional Development Authority to apply for permission to build on whatever common they so desire.

However, as Mrs. Mawhood, who works independently and on behalf of NOGOE 2012, has pointed out, Circus Field is not a “registered common”, it is Metropolitan Common Land. This places it in the remit of the Metropolitan Commons Supplemental Act 1871, which creates its own restrictions: “The Commissioners shall not entertain an application for the enclosure of a metropolitan common, or any part thereof” (Section 5) This does suggest that a separate act of parliament is required to enclose a Metropolitan Common…

Nothing will stop LOCOG though! They have have now signed a tenancy of 12 months granted by the Crown Estate to the ODA by virtue of new legislation. This agreement overrides the need for any permission (apart from planning) from Greenwich.

This only lends yet more credibility to the accusation that the Olympics is not a project which listens to opposition, especially on planning grounds, where the rules are simply rewritten to suit the project’s needs.

 

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Olympic Equestrian Event Debacle Continues

No tree will be cut down…

Preparations for the controversial equestrian events to be held in Greenwich Park are still underway, despite ever mounting pressure from groups and individuals protesting the decision. Among the numerous concerns over damage to the park, which is a world heritage site, there are fears of gridlock across the city, abuses of planning permission by LOCOG (London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games), and most worryingly of all, the safety of the public.

The planning application, published 8th Dec 2009, shows that the rare acid grassland will not be fully restored and reopened until “November 2015”, during which time a great deal of permanent damage will have been done to the park. Greenwich Park is a Conservation Area, every one of the approximately 3,000 trees  in the Park has a Tree Preservation Order on it, but despite this and assurances that “no tree will be cut down”, extensive ‘pruning’ has been underway. Several fragile trees have had major limbs amputated for the end of better camera sight-lines; injury from which some will not recover.

Although Greenwich Royal Park is the FEI’s (Fédération Equestre Internationale) preferred venue for the 2012 equestrian events, LOCOG has not made the smallest attempt to comply with the FEI Code of Conduct towards the Environment. The FEI’s code states that the protection of the environment must always prevail over the technical requirements of the various disciplines when organising events and in particular in the following cases:
a) Harmonious integration: Equestrian facilities should be built or converted
so as to ensure their harmonious integration into the local context,
whether natural or man-made, and in accordance with considerate
planning of land use.
b) Preservation of countryside: Equestrian events such as Driving, Endurance
and Eventing (cross country phase) must be so arranged as to ensure the
protection of conservation areas, the countryside, the cultural heritage and
natural resources as a whole.

Clearly, LOCOG’s systematic mutilation of the park does not fall within these guidelines.

The London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 (Section 5 (4a)) contains a clause in it’s Planning section that allows the Olympic Delivery Authority to disregard a section of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (Part III, Section 74, (1b)). This section pertains to the manner in which a local authority regulates planning permission applications, particularly  “for authorising the local planning authority to grant planning permission for development which does not accord with the provisions of the development plan”. The local planning authority has just stood idly by while LOCOG hacks up the park, without uttering a squeak of protest.

However, the LOCOG steamroller does not stop there. The Games organisers have implemented regulations “intended to meet commitments by the UK Government to the International Olympics Committee. The main aims are:
-to ensure all Olympic and Paralympic events have a consistent celebratory look and feel to them,
-to prevent ambush marketing within the vicinity of the venues; and
-to ensure people can easily access the venues.
To achieve these aims, “Interferences with the rights to freedom of expression and protection of one’s possessions may be justified on related grounds” (Paragraph 7, Human Right Assessment, The London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Advertising and Trading) (England) Regulations 2011 Impact Assessment). These interferences include “An interference with the right to be presumed innocent will be justified where it is confined “within reasonable limits which take into account the importance of what it at stake and maintain the rights of the defence” (Paragraph 24). Or, putting it another way, if anyone is caught interfering with the ‘consistent celebratory look and feel’ of the event, they can be presumed not to be innocent and, no doubt, removed.

The most worrying aspect of LOCOG’s irresponsibility where Greenwich Park is concerned relates to the safety of the public. The Royal Parks’ own “Guidelines for Event Organisers 2010” state that the capacity of the park provides for up to 15,000 and *possibly* more for “certain events”. This is nothing like the 50,000 (the number of cross-country day tickets that LOCOG say they have already sold). In the past, for example at the beginning of the London Marathon, there have been up to 21,000 runners in the park for a few hours at a time, and this with 9-10 exits available. However, the Olympic equestrian events will continue all day for several days and the area will be surrounded by fences, potentially with electrified tops. There are only three planned exits from the event zone. How difficult will it be to evacuate 50,000 people through 3 exits in 2-8 minutes? How difficult will it be to do this safely?

It is not difficult, however, to see how easily this could all descend into chaos. Even despite the risk of terrorism during the Olympic Games this summer, such irresponsible cramming of people into an undersized venue poses huge risks to the safety of those hoping to attend the events.

Clearly, LOCOG’s priority is once again with their sales, not with their responsibilities to the Park, the quality of the games, the public….

 


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